Chapters 1 and 2 of Romans are about the fact that we’re all sinners who are liable to God’s wrath and curse. Chapters 3 and 4 are about how we’re justified through faith in Jesus Christ. Through faith in the Saviour we’re pardoned and accepted by God. And chapters 5 to 8 are about the assurance of glory. Since we’ve been justified through faith, nothing will prevent the believer from being glorified in the presence of God one day. Nothing will prevent us. Death won’t stop us. Sin won’t stop us. The law won’t stop us. Nothing at all will separate us from God who is working out his plan to bring sinners like us into his glorious presence one day.
The last time we were thinking about verses 12 to 21 of chapter 5. Because of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, death came into the world so that everyone now dies. However, because of the Lord’s obedient work on the cross, life has come into the world. So, through Adam, death came, but through Christ, life comes into the world.
And I likened Adam and the Lord Jesus to two giants. We’re either attached to one or to the other. By nature, or by birth, we’re all attached to Adam and we’re headed for condemnation and death. But through faith, we’re removed from Adam and attached to the Lord Jesus Christ. And whoever is united with the Lord Jesus Christ through faith is headed for everlasting life.
And since Christ is the one who has secured this life for us by his obedience, then he deserves all the praise and the honour, because he was obedient to his Father, even to death on a cross. The assurance we have of glory is due to him and his obedient work on the cross.
Well, right at the end of chapter 5, Paul referred to the law. The Jews thought that by keeping the law they could win God’s favour. But, says Paul, the law only makes the situation worse: it increases the trespass. But the good news is that where sin increased, God’s grace towards us — his kindness towards sinners — increased all the more. And do you remember? I used the picture of two children, competing with one another.
Look what I can do!
But I can do more!
Look what I can do now!
But I can still do more.
Bet you can’t do this?
I can. And I can do more.
God’s grace towards us in Christ Jesus is always, always greater than the power of the law to condemn us. And that leads us to chapter 6 and it’s focus on the power of sin. Can sin keep us from reaching God’s glory?
Verses 1 to 3
Take a look at verse 1. Paul says:
What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase?
He’s perhaps repeating the words of one of his opponents. Or perhaps he’s simply doing what we do when we’re trying to persuade someone of something. You know, we try to think of possible objections, so that we can answer those objections even before an opponent has a chance to raise them. He’s trying to anticipate what someone might be thinking. For instance:
Paul, you’ve just said that where sin increased, God’s grace increased all the more. Where sin abounded, grace super-abounded. Does that mean that I can go on sinning? Does it mean that I can continue to sin, because God is bound to forgive me? Is that right? In fact, if what you’re saying is right, then my sin will surely magnify God, and make him seem all the greater, because the more he forgives me, the greater his grace to me appears?
Paul replies with a firm negative in verse 2. He wrote:
By no means! Not on your life. There’s no way that I’m suggesting that, not even for a moment.
And then he goes on to make clear that the believer’s break with sin is so decisive and so radical that the only way to describe it is to compare it to a death. Paul wrote:
We died to sin. How can we live in it any longer?
Have you ever heard someone say to someone else, usually as a joke, but no doubt sometimes people say it seriously:
You’re dead to me. You’ve let me down so badly, that you’re now dead to me.
And what they mean is that I’m going to treat you as if you’re dead and you’re no longer in my life. Well, says Paul, believers should regard sin as being dead to me. We’re to treat it as if it’s no longer a part of our life. He’s saying to those who may think they can do as they please:
Come on now. Sin should have no part in your life anymore.
And, of course, we should note carefully that Paul is now talking about the power, and not the penalty, of sin in our lives. Earlier — when he was talking about being justified through faith — he was talking about the penalty of sin, and how our sin makes us liable to God’s wrath and curse. Now though, he’s talking about the power of sin. Sin was once our Master who ruled over us. Sin determined what we would do. However, now that we believe, sin is no longer our Master. We’ve been delivered from its power over us and it no longer has a legitimate place in our lives.
So, says Paul, we died to sin. And since we died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? That’s what he’s saying in verse 2. But when did we die to sin? Well, according to Paul in verse 3, it happened whenever we first believed.
Now, Paul doesn’t mention ‘believing’ in verse 3. Nor does he mention ‘faith’ in verse 3. He does mention baptism though. Listen again to what he said:
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?
Paul refers to their baptism probably because he wants to refer to the time when his readers came to faith in Christ. Once they did not believe. Once these Roman believers were pagans who believed in all kinds of gods. But then they heard the gospel, and they believed. They were converted. And what happened when they were converted? Well, they were baptised. We see that all the time in the book of Acts. Whenever someone trusted in Christ, they were immediately baptised. And their baptism was a sign which signified not only God’s willingness to wash away their sins, but it also signified their new relationship to Christ. Once they belonged to the pagan idols and worshipped them; now and by faith, they belong to the Lord Jesus. And baptism was a sign of that. Their old way of life was over and they had begun a new life with Christ.
And I think that’s why Paul refers to their baptism in verse 3 here. He’s referring to their baptism because he wants to refer to the start of their Christian life. So, whenever he mentions baptism here we should think of the beginning of their Christian life when they were first united with Christ through faith. He’s saying to them:
Don’t you realise that when you first believed (and were baptised), you were baptised (and thus united) to Christ?
Notice, however, that he doesn’t simply say that they were baptised (and thus united) to Christ [full stop]. He says they were baptised (and united) into Christ’s death. In the past, the Lord Jesus Christ died and was buried. And when we first believed in him, and were united with him, it’s as if we too died, because when we first believed, our old sinful way of life died.
And, of course, the Lord Jesus not only died, but he was raised from the dead. And when we first believed in him, it’s as if we too were raised. We were raised with him to live a new life of obedience to God. That’s where Paul is headed in these verses: through faith we’re united with Christ, so that our old sinful life has died and we’re to live a new life of obedience to God.
So, look with me now at verse 4. Paul wrote:
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Paul says we were buried with Christ into death in order that we too may live a new life. And this happened, says Paul, through baptism.
As I’ve already said, when he refers to baptism in these verses, we should think about the beginning of the Christian life. The Romans were converted to faith in Christ and so they were baptised. Therefore, baptism in these verses stands for the start of the Christian life.
So, when we first believed, we died and were buried with Christ. That marked the death of our old life of sin and unbelief. And then, just as Christ was raised, so we too are raised to begin a new life. So, our old sinful life is dead and buried. And now, because our old sinful life is dead and buried, we’re able to live a new life, one of obedience to our heavenly Father.
## Verse 5
Look now at verse 5. Paul wrote:
If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will be certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
A better translation is as follows:
If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Now, the words ‘like his’ are important because they tell us that there’s a distinction between Christ’s death and resurrection and our death and resurrection. You see, the Lord Jesus really did die. And he really did rise bodily from the dead. He really did die. He really did rise.
However, the death we experience when we first believed is only like his. And the resurrection we experience when we first believed is only like his. They’re only like his because we didn’t really die when we first believed; but it’s as if we died, because we’re now done with that old way of life. And we didn’t really rise bodily when we first believed. One day, of course, we will rise bodily from the dead. We’ll rise bodily whenever Christ returns. But when we first believed, we didn’t really rise bodily from the dead, but it’s as if we were raised, because we were able to start a new life of obedience to God.
So, since Christ our Saviour died, it’s as if we too died. And since Christ our Saviour was raised, it’s as if we too were raised.
Paul continues to write about these things and to explain them to his readers. But that’s as far as we’ll get today. But let me just direct you to verse 11 briefly where Paul tells us to count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. That’s how we’re to regard ourselves everyday. That’s how we’re to think of ourselves. Sin does not belong in our lives anymore. We should treat that old way of life, that life of sin, as dead and gone.
When I lived in the Republic of Ireland I used Euros everyday. When I was buying something, I paid for it with Euros. Now, I’ve still got some Euros around the house, but I don’t use them and they’re not much use to me now. I leave them at the bottom of a drawer and I don’t ever pick them up, because they’re not part of my life now.
Well, we’re still sinners, aren’t we? There are still sins and sinful habits in our life. But, they don’t belong any more. They’re not meant to play any part in our new life in Christ. They belonged to our old life which we now regard as dead and gone.
So, go back to verse 1. Since we’ve been justified through faith, and since we know that God is prepared to pardon all our sins, should we just keep on sinning? Well, no, because when we first believed in the Saviour, our old way of life died and we began to live a new life with Christ, a life of obedience to our heavenly Father.